Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1955 No. 140 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


1. Ch. 129, Laws of 1955, establishes a new assessment date for all new or altered buildings, and the uniformity clause of the Constitution is not violated.

2. Ch. 129, Laws of 1955, does not change lien date for real property taxes.

3. Ch. 129, Laws of 1955, does not affect power to municipality to require building permits for construction under $500.00, whether ordinance passed before or after statute.

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                                                              September 29, 1955

Honorable H. Dan Bracken, Jr.
State Tax Commission
Insurance Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 140

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion in regard to the interpretation of chapter 129, Laws of 1955.  The specific questions are as follows:

            "1. Does the cited chapter establish a new assessment date applicable to all new construction and alterations 'under the provisions' of the Act?  If so, is the use of two assessment dates applicable to different properties in the same class consistent with the uniformity clause of the Constitution?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "2. What is the effect of the cited chapter on the lien date with respect to such property in the year in which April 30 is used at the assessment date?

            "3. Does the cited chapter affect building permit ordinances enacted by counties and cities before the enactment of Chapter 129?

            "A. Does the provision in section 2 for a permit 'For the construction or alteration of any building within the county, for which the value of the material exceeds five hundred dollars . . .' affect county permit ordinances already in effect requiring a permit for any construction using material value of $500.00 or less (e.g. $250.00)?

            "B. Does the expression, 'Property under the provisions of this Act,' as used in Section 5, include all buildings or alterations for which a permit is required by valid county or city ordinance no matter what material value may be provided in such ordinance, and no matter when construction is begun (e.g. after January 1, but before April 30)?

            "4. May a county enact an ordinance in which the minimum amount of material value is lower than that mentioned in Section 2, Chapter 129?"

            Following are the answers to your questions in their proper order:

            1. Yes, to both questions.

            2. No change.

            3. A.  No.

            B. Yes.

            4. Yes.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]


            1. Section 2, chapter 129, Laws of 1955, reads as follows:

            "The county commissioners of every county shall provide for the issuance of a building permit for the construction or alteration of any building within the county, for which the value of the material exceeds five hundred dollars except that where any city within the county issues such permits for all buildings within its jurisdiction, it shall not be necessary for the county to issue building permits for the construction or alteration of buildings within any such city.  Every application for building permit as required herein shall contain a legal description of the property upon which the building is to be constructed or altered."

            Section 5, chapter 129, Laws of 1955, reads as follows:

            "The county assessor is authorized to place any property under the provisions of this act on the assessment rolls for the purposes of tax levy up to May 31st of each year.  The assessed valuation of property under the provisions of this act shall be considered as of the April 30th immediately preceding the date that the property is placed on the assessment rolls."

            It is clear that this chapter is intended to cover new construction or alterations where the value of the materials used exceeds five hundred dollars, and that the property shall be assessed with reference to its value on the April 30th immediately preceding the date the property is placed on the rolls.

            Amendment 14 of the Washington State Constitution, in so far as relevant, provides:

            " * * * All taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax and shall be levied and collected for public purposes only * * * All real estate shall constitute one class:  * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            In our opinion the creation of a different assessment date for new construction and alterations than that for existing buildings is not prohibited by the 14th amendment.  It is said, in 1 Cooley, Taxation (4th ed.), 638, § 304, that there need not be uniformity as to the time of the assessment.  A statute may affect the taxation of a particular class of property to prevent its escape from taxation without violating any constitutional provision.  Nathan v. Spokane County, 35 Wash. 26.  In the case ofSpokane & I. E. R. Co. v. Spokane Co., et al., 75 Wash. 72, 87, the court said:

            "Counsel make some contention rested upon the difference in the time of finding of the value of public service property by the public service commission as compared to the time as of which other property is assessed; * * * An argument of some considerable length is made rested upon this contention wherein it is ingeniously pointed out that there is possibility of different standards of value being applied by reason of fluctuations in values at different times.  Our attention has, however, not been called to any authority, nor does it seem to be seriously contended, that it is not within the power of the legislature to permit certain classes of property to be assessed at one time and other classes at another time, even under our uniform constitutional taxation provisions.  We are unable to see that there is any want of power in the legislature to so provide, as it seems clearly to have done so by these laws."

            2. As indicated, section 5, chapter 129, fixes the date for determining the assessed valuation of the property as April 30th.  No mention is made of a date for the attachment of the tax lien.  RCW 84.60.020 provides that taxes assessed on real property shall be a lien thereon from and including the first day of January in the year in which they are levied.  Therefore, the lien upon the property included under the provisions of chapter 129 would be governed by the prior statute and become effective on January 1st of the year of the levy.

            3. Under the provisions of the constitution, Article XI, section 11, cities and counties are given the authority to enact all such local police, sanitary and  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws.  Any permit ordinance which was enacted by a city or county prior to the effective date of chapter 129, and which provides for a permit for any construction using materials of less value than five hundred dollars should be given effect.

            A reading of chapter 129 discloses that the legislature did not intend to enact a statute which was to be the whole law on the subject, but intended it as a general regulation permitting the municipalities to have such additional legislation not inconsistent therewith.  There is nothing in the act which either expressly or by evident intent declares that the state has foreclosed the right of a city or county from enacting supplemental legislation.  Allen v. Bellingham, 95 Wash. 12.  The court, inState ex rel. Isham v. Spokane, 2 Wn. (2d) 392, 398, states:

            "* * * the fact that a city charter provision or ordinance enlarges upon the provisions of a statute by requiring more than the statute requires, does not create a conflict unless the statute expressly limits the requirements * * *"

            Furthermore, chapter 129 is an act relating to revenue and taxation, while ordinances of municipalities requiring building permits are for the purpose of regulation and the subject matter is of a local nature with peculiar local requirements.  The act is intended to insure that permits shall be required throughout the state for all new buildings and alterations when the value of the materials used isat least in excess of five hundred dollars.

            Section 1, chapter 129, provides:

            "'Issuer' means any state, county, city or town agency from which it is necessary to receive a permit before proceeding with construction ofany building."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Section 3, chapter 129, provides:

            "Whenever any issuer issues a building permit for the construction ofany building, such issuer shall immediately transmit a copy of the permit to the county assessor of the county in which such building is to be constructed."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            Thus it can be seen that the above sections contemplate all construction for which a permit is required either by state law or by municipal ordinance and the term "property under the provisions of this act" as used in section 5 includes all buildings and alterations regardless of the value of material used if the city or county has seen fit to enact an ordinance requiring a permit for a lesser amount than five hundred dollars.

            With respect to when construction is begun, chapter 129 includes all new construction or alterations commenced after January 1st and before May 1st.

            4. Since there is no difference between an ordinance enacted before or one enacted after the effective date of chapter 129, the same reasoning as set forth above will apply.  InState ex rel. Isham v. Spokane, supra, the court held that local legislation upon subjects already covered by state statute may be enacted so long as the local legislation does not conflict with the state law.

            It should be noted, however, that the obtaining of a county building permit is mandatory where the construction is over $500 in value; see AGO 55-57 No. 86, addressed to State Senator Herb Hanson on June 1, 1955.  In addition, an opinion from this office addressed to the prosecuting attorney of Grays Harbor county on March 31, 1947, discusses the authority of the board of county commissioners to enact an ordinance requiring that county building permits be obtained for all building construction within the county outside of incorporated cities.  Copies of both of the above‑mentioned opinions are attached for your convenience.

            We hope that the foregoing analysis will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General